Saint Stanislaus, Bishop of Kraków
April 11 is the feast of Saint Stanislaus, the Bishop of Kraków, and patron saint of Kraków and Poland. A champion of religious liberty and of the dignity of every human being, he vehemently opposed the evils of an unjust government. In fact, speaking the truth cost him his life.
Stanislaus was born of noble parents in Szczepanow near Kraków on July 26, 1030. He was educated at Gnesen and at Paris. Following his ordination to the priesthood, he was made a canon of the cathedral at Cracow. He was appointed preacher and archdeacon to the bishop of Kraków, where his eloquent preaching and virtuous example resulted in a great spiritual renewal among both clergy and the laity. He was also distinguished for being an excellent spiritual director. In 1072, he became bishop of Kraków.
The king of Poland, King Boleslaus II, led an expedition against the grand duchy of Kiev, making him very unpopular with the nobles of the country, who opposed his corrupt policies. St. Stanislaus of Krakow sided with the nobles which brought him into battle with the king.
Stanislaus had opposed the king prior to this for his immoral and dictatorial behavior. He once challenged him for his debauched behavior when Boleslaus kidnaped the wife of a Polish nobleman and carried her off to his castle. Stanislaus courageously approached the king and threatened excommunication if he did not change his behavior. Furious, the king swore to take revenge on the bishop. Then Stanislaus sided with the nobles in their opposition to the king’s immoral policies. Consequently, the king accused him of being a traitor and sentenced him to death.
Initially, the king ordered his soldiers to kill the bishop, but the men returned and said that they could not kill him because he was surrounded by a divine light. The king chided his soldiers for their cowardice and killed the saint himself as he was celebrating the Mass. The guards cut the body up and scattered it to be eaten by wild animals. Three days later his remains were collected by cathedral canons and buried at the door of the chapel. In 1088, the body was transferred to the cathedral by Bishop Lambert II.
Pope Saint Gregory VII placed Poland under an interdict and Boleslaus fled the country, dying as a fugitive in Hungary. Saint Stanislaus was canonized in 1253 by Pope Innocent IV at Assisi.
Prayer to Saint Stanislaus
Saint Stanislaus, gracious intercessor before God, defender of the oppressed and patron of those in mortal danger, you always zealously served Jesus and His Immaculate Mother for the salvation of immortal souls, and you took pity on every misery. Trusting in your intercession, I have recourse to you, and I ask that you do not deny me your help. By your earnest prayers, obtain for me from God the grace… for which I beg you with trust, and help me, all my life long, to fulfill the will of the Heavenly Father. Amen.
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